Roman Coppola on the Movies
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III has already divided audiences between those who enjoy its obvious Brechtian qualities and those who don’t want movies to have too much fun. “We did have a lot of fun,” says writer/director Roman Coppola in a phone interview with Free Press Houston. “While writing it I always had a sense of playfulness. The actors are friends, or Jason [Schwarztman] who is my cousin.”
Charles Swan III unfolds not unlike a Walter Mitty type story where what’s happening is all in the mind of the perhaps not so meek protag. Charlie Sheen stars with support from Bill Murray, Schwarztman, Katheryn Winnick, Aubrey Plaza and others. To hear Coppola talk about Charles Swan it’s all about “a type of movie, a zany kind of movie.” Coppola mentions Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment (1966) and Billy Liar (1963), both comedies with characters immersed deep in a fantasy world. Coppola adds that though the end result often looks improvised the tight schedule guaranteed that the scenes were carefully planned.
A sequence that was shot in Bronson Canyon finds Murray in a John Wayne outfit and Schwarztman with a Lash La Rue look while Sheen displays a colorful western style shirt. “That shirt was actually based on a drawing by graphic designer Charles White III who was one of my inspirations for the lead character,” adds Coppola. CQ from 2001, Coppola’s previous film, also displays a “sense of play, an homage to what I think are cool movies.”
Additionally Coppola has co-written a number of films going back to 1990’s The Spirit of ’76. “That movie was a timely parody of the ‘70s, a decade that was already a parody of itself,” laughs Coppola. More recently Coppola has collaborated with Wes Anderson for the scripts of Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom, the latter of which landed Coppola an Oscar nomination. Or as Oscar host Seth MacFarlane put it: “Mom I got an A in Spanish. So what? Everyone in your family has an Oscar.”
Being a member of the Coppola family means that at age 11 Roman was living in the Philippines while his dad was making Apocalypse Now. “That’s where I first met Charlie Sheen, we were boys hanging out together on the set. That’s my life.”
Still, being a member of an established Hollywood family doesn’t provide instant funding. “I follow my impulses and my passions,” maintains Coppola. “If you’re trying to get a film made that’s not something that’s already been a success it’s difficult if not impossible to get funding.”
– Michael Bergeron